The EDUCATION of ACHILLES.
1 AH me! is all our pleasure mix'd with woe!
2 Is there on earth no happiness sincere?
3 Must e'en this bitter stream of sorrow flow
4 From joy's domestick spring, our children dear?
5 How oft did Thetis drop the silver tear,
6 When with fond eyes she view'd her darling boy!
7 How oft her breast heav'd with presaging fear,
8 Lest vice's secret canker should annoy
9 Fair virtue's op'ning bud, and all her hopes destroy!
10 At length, so Nereus had her rightly taught,
11 That doubtful cares might eat her heart no more,
12 Her imp in prattling infancy she brought
13 To the fam'd Centaur, on mount Pelion hoar,
14 Hight Chiron, whom to Saturn Phyl'ra bore;
15 Chiron, whose wisdom flourish'd 'bove his peers,
16 In ev'ry goodly thew, and virtuous lore,
17 To principle his yet untainted years;
18 The seed that's early sown, the fairest harvest bears.
19 Far in the covert of a bushy wood,
20 Where aged trees their star-proof branches spread,
21 A grott, with grey moss ever dropping stood;
22 Ne costly gems the sparkling roof display'd,
23 Ne crystal squares the pavement rich inlaid,
24 But o'er the pebbles, clear with glassy shine,
25 A limpid stream in soothing murmurs stray'd,
26 And all around the flow'ring eglantine
27 Its balmy tendrils spread in many a wanton twine.
28 A lowly habitation, well I ween,
29 Yet sacred made by men of mickle fame,
30 Who there in precepts wise had lesson'd been;
31 Chaste Peleus, consort of the sea-born dame,[Page 123]
32 Sage Aesculape, who cou'd the vital flame
33 (Blest leach!) relumine by his healing skill;
34 And Jason, who, his father's crown to claim,
35 Descended dreadful from the craggy hill,
36 And with his portence stern did false usurper thrill.
37 Fast by the cave a damsel was ypight,
38 Afraid from earth her blushing looks to rear,
39 Lest aught indecent shou'd offend her sight,
40 Lest aught indecent shou'd offend her ear;
41 Yet wou'd she sometime deign at sober chear
42 Softly to smile, but ever held it shame
43 The mirth of foul-mouth'd ribaldry to bear,
44 A cautious nymph, and MODESTY her name.
45 Ah! who but churlish carle would hurt so pure a dame?
46 With her sate TEMPERANCE, companion meet,
47 Plucking from tree-en bough her simple food,
48 And pointing to an urn beside her feet,
49 Fill'd with the crystal of the wholesome flood:
50 With her was seen, of grave and aweful mood,
51 Hoary FIDELITY, a matron staid;
52 And sweet BENEVOLENCE, who smiling stood,
53 Whilst at her breast two fondling infants play'd,
54 And turtles, billing soft, coo'd thro' the echoing glade.
55 On t'other side, of bold and open air,
56 Was a fair personage hight EXERCISE;
57 Reclin'd he seem'd upon his rough boar-spear,
58 As late surceas'd from hardy enterprize;
59 (For Sloth inglorious did he aye despise)
60 Fresh glow'd his cheek with health's vermilion dye,
61 On his sleek brow the swelling sweat-drops rise,
62 And oft around he darts his glowing eye
63 To view his well-breath'd hounds, full jolly company.
64 Not far away was sage EXPERIENCE plac'd,
65 With care-knit brow, fix'd looks, and sober plight,
66 Who weighing well the present with the past,
67 Of every accident cou'd read aright.
68 With him was rev'rend CONTEMPLATION pight,
69 Bow-bent with eld, his beard of snowy hue,
70 Yet age's hand mote not empare the sight,
71 Still with sharp ken the eagle he'd pursue,
72 As thro' the buxom air to heav'n's bright bow'rs she flew.
73 Here the fond parent left her darling care,
74 Yet softly breath'd a sigh as she withdrew;
75 Here the young hero, ev'n from tender year,
76 Eftsoons imbib'd Instruction's hony'd dew,[Page 125]
77 (For well to file his tongue, sage Chiron knew)
78 And learnt to discipline his life aright;
79 To pay to pow'rs supreme a reverence due,
80 Chief to Saturnian Jove, whose dreaded might
81 Wings thro' disparted clouds the bik'ring light'ning's flight.
82 Aye was the stripling wont, ere morning fair
83 Had rear'd o'er eastern waves her rosy tede,
84 To grasp with tender hand the pointed spear,
85 And beat the thicket where the boar's fell breed
86 Enshrouded lay, or lion's tawny seed.
87 Oft wou'd great Dian, with her woody train,
88 Stop in mid chace to wonder at his speed,
89 Whilst up the hill's rough side she saw him strain,
90 Or sweep with winged feet along the level plain.
91 And when dun shades had blent the day's bright eye,
92 Upon his shoulders, with slow stagg'ring pace,
93 He brought the prey his hand had done to die,
94 Whilst blood with dust besprent did foul disgrace
95 The goodly features of his glowing face.
96 When as the sage beheld on grassy soil
97 Each panting corse, whilst life did well apace,
98 The panther of his spotted pride he'd spoil,
99 To deck his foster son: fit need of daring toil.
100 And ever and anon the godlike sire,
101 To temper stern behests with pleasaunce gay,
102 Would touch (for well he cou'd) the silver lyre;
103 So sweetly ravish'd each enchanting lay,
104 That Pan, in scornful wise, wou'd fling away
105 His rustick pipe, and e'en the sacred train
106 Wou'd leave their lov'd Parnass' in trim array,
107 And thought their own Apollo once again
108 Charm'd his attentive flock, a simple shepherd swain.
109 And ever and anon of worthies old,
110 Whose praise Fame's trump thro' earth's wide hounds had spread,
111 To fire his mind to brave exploits, he told;
112 Pirithous, known for prowest hardy-head;
113 Theseus, whose wrath the dire Procrustes fled;
114 And Hercules, whom trembling Lerna fear'd,
115 When Hydra fell, in loathsome marshes bred,
116 In vain against the son of Jove uprear'd
117 Head sprouting under head, by thrillant faulchion shear'd.
118 The stern-brow'd boy in mute attention stood,
119 To hear the sage relate each great emprise;
120 Then strode along the cave in haughtier mood,
121 Whilst varying passions in his bosom rise,[Page 127]
122 And lightning-beams flash from his glowing eyes.
123 Ev'n now he scorns the prey the defarts yield,
124 Ev'n now (as hope the future scene supplies)
125 He shakes the terror of his heav'n-form'd shield,
126 And braves th' indignant flood, and thunders o'er the field.